Three-ring circus

By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  July 29, 2009

That's just the start. Brother Duane Smiley (Jonathan Dent), who was found as a baby in a basket on Modestine's doorstep, is all set to marry a gold-digging hussy, Jolene Watkins (Liz Morgan), whom no one but he likes. His entirely unmotivated attraction to her is a serious flaw only slightly finessed by this being a comedy. What redeems the character is Morgan's brilliantly enthusiastic performance as a villainess enamored with herself and her egocentric excesses, helped by the playwright making her a rabid Christian who knows that Jesus will always love her.

Pearl Jenkins (Rachel Christopher), who works at Modestine's fried chicken emporium, gets some good lines putting down Jolene and her sluttish ways. Pearl: "Heave." Jolene: "Heave what?" Pearl: "Heave, ho!" The most sympathetic character here is Mattie Baines (Lynette Freeman), pregnant though married, who shows up to apologize to Dwayne for having left him at the altar. A mystery that remains to the end is why she did so and why she won't reveal the reason. The answer we eventually get is somewhat convoluted but plausible.

This is a comedy that contains an outright farce wanting to break free. When it finally does, through the surrealism of an outlandish extended Viagra sight gag, the tone might be awkwardly broken, but most of us will be laughing too hard to care — not even when we are expected to believe that Delmar has to deliver a baby himself even though they are in a hospital. Chicken Grease is propelled by outlandish plot turns and wholeheartedly committed acting that makes the evening too funny to worry about such niceties as Aristotelian unities.

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